The Bears didn't do very well for themselves on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, and despite heading into Atlanta on a roll since that season-opening disappointment in Green Bay, Chicago dropped another heartbreaker to the Falcons – this time due to red-zone miscues.
Michael Turner scored the go-ahead touchdown on an otherwise forgettable night, powering over from 5 yards with 3:06 remaining, and the defense held at the end to preserve a 21-14 victory.
Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes for the Falcons (4-1), who matched the best five-game start in franchise history. The Bears (3-2) will surely be moaning about all the mistakes down close that helped end their three-game winning streak: a fumble at the 1, an interception at the 9 and a crucial penalty when they had fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 5 with less than a minute to go.
The teams played a thriller for the second year in a row. Last season, the Bears thought they had pulled out an improbable victory on a touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining, only to blow it by going with a pooch kick and giving up one long completion that set up Jason Elam for a game-winning field goal on the final play.
This time, the team that was behind couldn't pull off the comeback. Jay Cutler drove the Bears down the field, and a disputed pass interference penalty on Curtis Lofton gave the Bears a first down at the Atlanta 14. Two penalties left Chicago with third-and-25 before Cutler went over the middle to Earl Bennett, who came down with the ball amid three defenders for a 24-yard reception.
That left the Bears needing 3 feet on fourth down, and they called time to set up a play. But left tackle Orlando Pace inexplicably took off ahead of the snap, leaving Chicago with a much more daunting fourth-and-6. Cutler's final pass, going for Desmond Clark over the middle, bounced off the receiver's arm with Erik Coleman defending to preserve the victory with 29 seconds left.
Greg Olsen appeared to be open in the back of the end zone, but Cutler didn't see him.
Atlanta's winning touchdown was set up by Eric Weems' 62-yard kickoff return. Ryan and Tony Gonzalez took over from there, hooking up on two huge pass plays, before Turner finished off the drive from the 5. He found nothing but turf after cutting to his right, and a slight bump with teammate Verron Haynes was about the only chance he had to go down.
Turner, the second-leading rusher in the NFL last season, finished with just 30 yards on 13 carries. Shaking off that frustration, he flung the ball into the air with his left hand after scoring.
Chicago let too many chances get away, scoring only once in four possessions inside the Atlanta 20. Cutler was picked off early on by Thomas DeCoud at the Atlanta 9 on an ugly pass over the middle. Then in the third quarter, Matt Forte really blew it after the Bears had first-and-goal from inside the 1.
He fumbled trying to leap over the pile, but fortunately managed to recover it himself after falling to the turf. On the very next play, Forte took off to the left, only to have Jonathan Babineux deliver a shot with the helmet that sent the ball flying again. This time, Coy Wire recovered for the Falcons, denying Chicago a seemingly sure tying touchdown.
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